There isn’t one me, and that’s OK.

A post at Hearthrose’s blog got me thinking about something recently.

Although I take pride in being pretty independent and happy to be alone, like all people I try and craft myself a story which minimizes conflict, which allows me to appear more congruent, to fit into the group.

But the thing is, although I am functional, stable and happy, I am not a sane, balanced, “one story” sort of a person. I’ve done a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff has happened to me, and my refusal to adhere to one group means my outlook on life isn’t from the same vantage point as any given person I am talking to. I have been on welfare and among the elite at the Oxford and Cambridge club. I have spent time in churches and posing nude for painting and photography groups. I have been paid to write liberal essays, but I have also intentionally associated with Marxists and feminists. I have lived across countries, incomes, social boundaries… And between that and the randomly flicking light switch which is my hormonal balance, I am not sane or balanced, there is no “one story”.

I find that with the way my head works, it’s hard to reconcile many different aspects of myself. I learned from a young age that people as disjointed and random as me aren’t “real” people, that I needed to simplify myself in order to be “genuine”. Although no one person has mattered to me beyond Jon, I’ve still tried to minimize conflict by wedging myself into one story and hiding anything which didn’t quite fit.

Pregnancy has given me some time to think about this though, especially about disorders like bipolar and disorders of shallow affect. I know they’re highly heritable. But I don’t want my son to end up like my father: a bipolar alcoholic unable to reconcile all the facets of his identity into something pleasant and superficially genuine, which people might find easier to swallow. I want my son to be able to be weird and disjointed, to not commit to something unless he needs to or wants to or believes it makes sense, to not force himself into an indentity or a group without reason. I don’t want to make him think he has to find a community he can perfectly blend into and fade into the background. Because that is what happened to my father and it doesn’t work.

I don’t care any more if I’m a bit too sweary or immodest at times for the traditional spheres. Or if I’m not racy or flaunty enough for social media. Or if I’m not religious enough for small communities. Or if I’m not abrasive enough for my age group. I don’t care that I read anything from the KJ Bible to Deadman Wonderland, that I’m an anime nerd, that I can’t hate the sex industry, that I prefer to be alone most of the time, that I’m self-absorbed, that I like to do traditional tasks, that I hoard money instead of using it.

I’d rather get on with being me, doing what I must do in order to succeed at what I want, accepting the different sides of myself and not hiding them in order to fit in better or appease someone. If something needs fixing, I’ll fix it, not pretend it isn’t there to give a better impression. And if I lose a few people along the way, then they’re not part of my story, are they?

Shame and Reframe to Maintain Social Order.

This one was requested a while ago by asdgamer and, having given it some thought, this is my opinion as to how and why the common “shame and reframe” debate tactic became such an important element to female debate arsenal.

Shame and reframe (S&R), as a tactic, is composed of two parts. There is the shaming element, which involves taking another person’s viewpoint, character or even their debate tactic and trying to make them sound bad. There is no substance to shaming, it is simply the act of saying “bad, bad person” until they are ashamed enough to withdraw their comment or rephrase the argument.

The reframing argument involves taking an actual question or topic and avoiding it by bringing up another one. Common forms involve answering a question with a question, turning the question on the person asking it or creating a false simile to work from.

S&R allows someone who is in an uncomfortable position to avoid explicitly stating a controversial opinion, agreeing openly with their debate rival or accepting a flaw in their logic.

For example, in a parenting group a mother may say: “I believe infants and mothers should be together until an age when the child would have naturally weaned, say, a year or two years.”

Most of the other mothers disagree. They think that the advantages of extra work and resources outweigh the disadvantages of missing out on that early bonding. The logical response would be to simply say this.

But then feelings get in the way. The feel bad about not spending more time with their kids. They feel offended that someone might consider them worse mothers. They feel judged and persecuted.

So instead of responding rationally and giving “the enemy” more ammunition, they S&R.

“You only say that because you’re a stay at home mother.”

“If you got your degree, you would be out here earning money with us.”

“Fathers don’t spend that time with kids, why should we have to?”

“Weaning can happen at any age now.”

“It’s rude to imply all mothers can breastfeed.”

What have they done? Well, instead of addressing her actual point they try and make her ashamed. They use her lifestyle (stay at home mother), education (if you got your degree) and even twist her words (imply all mothers can breastfeed) to make her embarrassed, so that she takes back her words and doesn’t upset them any more. Instead of admitting they put resources before bonding, they reframe the argument. They use false similes (fathers), diversions (its rude to…) and technicalities (weaning can happen at any age now) to direct the argument away from the issue the first mother raised.

In debate, this is a pretty awful tactic. Nobody would ever reach consensus, work out theories or convert nonbelievers if we all debated like this. Life would be stagnant.

But as an evolutionary adaptation, S&R is actually very useful and protects the integrity of the group.

You see, when that mother was shamed, it was expected that she would take back what she said. Why? So that the majority opinion can win. The majority state that work is favourable over bonding, therefore, if the minority converted the majority, an entire way of life would be thrown out. She needs to understand that she is the minority, the outcast, and cannot overthrow the majority opinion. A majority cannot be shamed like this. It doesn’t work on them. But a minority will often take back their statement when shamed. This is the most basic form of democracy.

Reframing takes the debate away from a topic that the majority wish to avoid. In essence, by reframing the majority are stating that this topic is taboo. In any social group, a taboo enforced by a majority is a cornerstone for social order. In this case, the taboo is the feelings of the mothers. Naturally, biologically, they wish to be with their children. Yet on a logical level, they feel that working for resources is the best option. If they wish to continue working for resources with which to feed their children, they must avoid all discussion on the biological reality of motherhood.

In short S&R stagnates and kills debate because that’s what it’s meant to do. S&R enforces the status quo and defends the right of the majority (democracy) and the cultural norms of the society (taboos), keeping the group operating the way that has benefited them until now.

However ineffective it is for philosophical, theological, sociological or political debate, S&R persists because it’s one of the best ways of creating and maintaining order.

And that is my analysis of shaming and reframing.

Anyone have anything to add?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Men Lead, Women Support.

There are some aspects of human nature that we are reluctant to address. Usually the ones that aren’t set in stone, that have just enough exceptions, that are a pull you can resist rather than a reflex you can’t help. And the pull that men and women feel towards certain roles is one of the most taboo subjects. But we do feel that pull and not only is there good reason for it, but understanding it can still be useful in today’s society, whoever you are.

One fact about humans is that, as social animals, the ways in which we contribute to society, from our tribe to our partners, are skewed by gender.

In their traditional roles across the World, men assume positions of leadership. What positions are available depends on the society, be it CEO, village headman or doctor. And what each position means also depends on the society, as a doctor in some cultures could be less revered or respected than in others. And how much authority you can command will depend on yourself and how well you and your skills fit into society. After all, an introverted master fisherman in a society where introversion and fishing are unappreciated will be doing worse than an extroverted blacksmith. But men have always capitalized their talents and made effort to become respected leaders of the community. And with this respect also come the resources they need to survive, a greater possibility of a good retirement and a wider selection of reproductive choices. By which I mean, men in positions of authority get food, protection, community and sex. The basics for human survival.

However, women’s traditional roles across the World are positions of support. Again, the availability and respect given to these positions depend on the society and how much their support contributes. And how much respect you are given will depend on yourself, your own ability to be supportive and how well your skills match the necessary skills for a more respected support role. A delicate feminine bride may be adored in a culture where her main role of support is to support her husband. But she would be far less respected in a society where women supported the tribe through toiling in the fields. But women have always supported the men and the vulnerable and made effort to ensure that the vulnerable are cared for and the men can continue leading. And when they were good at this, they were more likely to access the resources they need to survive, captivate a man’s attention and the respect of the tribe and have many healthy children. By which I mean, women in support positions get food, protection, community and sex. Again, basic human survival.

These traditional roles aren’t enforced strategies that every culture forced on its people coincidentally. They developed because of our condition. Firstly before contraception females would bear and breastfeed infants, meaning they would spend more time at home, around the tired hunters and the vulnerable members of society. Secondly, if females were having infants and infants are beneficial to the survival of a group (they are) then female energy would be highly valuable, meaning most energy-expensive activities, such as hunting and wood cutting, would fall to males. Thirdly, when males were taking over most energy-expensive, away-from-home and risky work, then they would not exactly be going to be brimming with energy to clean, tidy, cook, tan skins, weave baskets, feed the vulnerable, etc when they got home. So someone had to do it. These traits probably developed before we became Homo Sapiens Sapiens. As in, when we were still very furry tribes of humanoid primates living on the plains of Africa, these traits were firmly ingrained. So if the pull for men to lead and for women to support is pretty fixed in most humans, but expresses itself culturally, where do we see it today?

Well, everywhere. Firstly, however much people want to pretend otherwise, most relationships still follow the lead-support dynamic. Like in dancing, when you have two people trying to lead you get arguments and injury (at least emotional damage), and when you have two people trying to support not a lot gets done or finished. Unless you are operating as individuals who have no relation to each other, someone ends up taking the lead and someone ends up supporting the leader and the usual pattern is the biological one. Secondly, women are more attracted to support-based jobs, such as teaching, care or secretarial/HR style positions. Men are more attracted to careers and pursue an end goal of climbing the ranks to leadership, be it in banking, religious offices or business ownership. In our personal and professional lives, most men choose to lead and most women choose to support a leader.

Of course, some people will prefer the opposite role, be drawn to it and feel fulfilled in it. And, just as with homosexuality, there is no denying that the pull can be flipped or altered. But what happens when someone can’t fulfill their role, either because of social constraints or inability to fit the position? Then we end up seeing some sort of breakdown in them as human beings.

Men who can’t lead, either because they aren’t skilled enough at their job or because they are being led by everyone against their will, wind up unwell. They become stressed, passive and try and blend into the background. When women can’t support, either because there is no leader or because too many people depend on them, we see the same thing. Women are more stressed by work than men, even doing fewer hours. Men are more stressed by inactivity than women, even when their needs are met. Leading men being led by leading women start to break and can even become suicidal. Supportive women coexisting with supportive men become flighty and insecure. That same thing that creates the pull to begin with reacts negatively to being forced into the wrong role. It realizes it has failed to guard you. You have probably lost social standing, not gained many resources, are not desired by potential partners. So you are weak. So your body gets stressed, encouraging you to either break out of that negative position or just make yourself small and unnoticeable so the tribe doesn’t hurt you.

This is why highly successful women pair up with even more successful men. This is why men are willing to completely reinvent themselves after a few rejections. This is why women suffer more workplace stress in less busy, less physically demanding roles. This is why men in dangerous jobs are often less stressed than men involuntarily on the dole. We can’t change our role any more than we can change our sexual attraction.

But even in today’s society we can make use of this knowledge and use it to our advantage. For example, most women, being supportive and not leading, will prefer to confer or defer decisions than make one on the spot. Most men are more motivated and satisfied by additional status and respect than additional wealth in a job. Most women want to feel like someone is steering the ship when their lives get a little rocky. Most men want to feel like there’s something to fall back on in the same situation.

If you’re one of those who fall into the most common role for your gender, then this knowledge can help you understand yourself and understand those  of the opposite gender. You can use it to see what would make you happiest and to properly look after your partner, children, friends and relatives. If you’re not one of those who fall into the common role for your gender,* then this gives you more insight into how others of your gender differ from you and some grounding from which to make your decisions and better integrate into society. All round, there are some truths you can deny. But this is one of those where denying it will cause more harm than good, to yourself and those around you.

*This doesn't mean being gay or masculine/feminine, by the way, plenty of feminine gay men could easily also be drawn to leadership and a tomboyish girl can be the support in her relationships. All these things may be fixed on an individual level, but are pretty independent of each other.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

In brief: Why you should admire and not covet.

Jealousy is a plague that has followed humans since our earliest existence. As living beings, we are constantly competing against our environment and other humans of a similar standing. As social animals, we are in close contact with our competition and superiors. So we naturally look at what we have, look at what they have and want a better lot.

This can be very good in that it helps us set high goals, gain healthy respect for our peers and superiors and understand our position and potential. However, it can also cause us problems.

We start to develop a deep envy of anyone who has something we want. We covet what they have, be it a fancy car, curly hair or a knack for music. And rather than enjoy their merits for what they are and look to the good in ourselves, we focus entirely on our lack of these things. Which leads to social disruptions as we become jealous of our peers and lose self esteem over our differences.

And all this is perfectly natural. But, just as eating and getting fat are natural does not make obesity good or healthy, neither is jealousy and low self esteem healthy just because competitiveness and living in close proximity to your competition are natural.

For a healthier outlook, instead admire the positives in others. Don’t look at what they have and get angry because they have it and it’s nice. That may be a natural reaction, but it is also immature and harmful. Look at someone who has the car you want and admire that car. You can do this and accept that you don’t have the money to buy it (yet). Look at someone who does amazingly in maths exams without any effort at all and admire their talent. You can do this and accept that you have to work harder than that and may never get those results. Look at someone who has the curly hair you’ve always dreamed of and admire its beauty. You can do this and accept that your hair is not naturally curly like that.

It’s key to respect your differences. You may want to be the same as your friend or a celebrity in certain aspects, but there is no point harbouring envy and anger because someone has something you don’t. I’m not really a believer in the doctrine of “everyone is equal in their difference”. There are plenty of bright people who are also athletic, attractive and charming. Not every dumb person will have anything to compensate for it. But generally people have good traits and bad traits, even if they aren’t really excellent in any way. You may not have your friend’s hair colour or gift for mathematics. But getting het up about it doesn’t help you get it. It just makes you angry, insecure and bitter, all of which are actually making you worse as a person. And when we try and improve ourselves from a place of jealousy, trying to seize what we covet… Well, like the proverbial flower that is picked, the thing we thought was so beautiful is ruined and dies. When we get a face lift or botox to get beautiful skin, we wind up with unnaturally stretched, creased skin. When we lie in tanning beds or bleach our skin, we get reddened marks, cancer risk and blotchy patches. When we cheat in a French test we get pushed beyond our abilities in the higher classes until we drop out. You can’t just see what you like and angrily grab at it. Sometimes it’s beyond your reach and snatching it will only break it.

So try and appreciate yourself. Bear in mind that the traits you would readily cast aside for something else are also coveted by others. Even the tallest man wants the normalcy of average height. Even the richest person wants the simplicity of less. Even the greatest mathematician wonders about becoming a gardener. Nobody is ever fully satisfied. Someone out there wants your hair, your waistline, your money, your family, your job. You may not enjoy any of it. But at least appreciate that whatever you have has some value.

And if you find actual flaws? Flaws that hinder you, that aren’t representative of you, that you could easily fix? Build yourself up from there. You don’t need to hate your hair to get a haircut or to hate your job to change careers. You don’t need to be bitter towards the maths whiz to work harder in maths or to get angry at attractive celebrities to get fit. Just because the baseline is “be me” doesn’t mean that you can’t go beyond it. You stay “me” every step of the way, don’t you? You will still be true to yourself if you become wiser, more attractive, wealthier, more powerful, fitter, more educated or stronger.

So admire the things you love in others.

Respect the difference between yourself and those around you.

Appreciate every blessing bestowed upon you.

And never stop growing.

After all, you’re perfect, but you need to keep going.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Ways To Be More Independent.

We would all like to be more independent. After all, we live in a world where self-deification is the norm and pride, envy and greed are all justified, as you clearly deserve everything you want.

So whether you’re one of those people who feels worthy of everything they want or need or just someone who wants to avoid relying on those people, we all want to be more independent from others. This isn’t a safe world in which to be completely dependent, after all.

So what are the ways in which we can limit our dependence on others? Here are my top five.

1.- Self Awareness.

Self awareness is the very baseline. It is a raw, amoral, unemotional, rational analysis of who and what you are. Ask yourself these questions and answer as honestly as you can.

Who am I?

What defines me?

What do I add to others lives?

What do I get from others?

What is my purpose in life?

Who chose that purpose?

Am I fulfilling that purpose?

What are my flaws?

What are my shortcomings?

What holds me back?

What are my advantages?

Am I making use of them?

What are my goals?

Are they realistic?

Do they align with my purpose?

What am I doing with my life?

Am I making good use of my time?

How much do I have left?

What are my motivations?What is my priority?What matters most?

Are any of these questions making me uncomfortable? Why?

Did I answer any of these questions dishonestly? Why? What is the real answer?

Go through them again and again until you start to get a feel for who you really are. Face every side of yourself, especially the aspects you don’t like. The less you like them, the more you need to observe them. The parts of you that you least like are the ones you need to be the most aware of.

2.- Self Actualization.

Abraham Maslow defined self actualization as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially.” In other words, it is the desire to become the very best you can be, combined with a striving to become that best.

You cannot be independent without self actualizing. It is the next step from Self Awareness. Once you know who you are, you become aware of your potential. You might not know for sure how well you can do, but you will have an idea. Now you need to hunger for it.

You need to feel that compelling urge, that burning desire to reach the pinnacle of what you can be, to be the best.

Whatever you want out of life, whatever your purpose is, whatever you’re headed towards, you need to strive for it and strive to do the very best you can do.

3.- Self Sufficiency.

Part of becoming the very best you can be is cutting unnecessary dependence. And the biggest form of dependence is when you depend on others for your basic needs.

Of course, you can never actually eliminate the need for others unless you also eliminate others. If you want food, someone has to grow it, pick it and transport it. If you forage wild food you depend on there being wild plants, on having the ability to access them, on being protected from others who might interfere with your ability to forage. In short, as long as there are people, you will need people, even if it’s just to stop the other people from becoming a nuisance to you.

However there are many ways you can maximize your self sufficiency and ensure that you aren’t relying too much on individuals or organizations for support.

Look at where your money, your food, your shelter come from. These are the bare basics. The very first step is to ensure that your food and shelter come from your own money, not someone else’s. If your food and shelter come from your money, consider where your money comes from. Think of how you could use less money to have the same food and shelter. Consider whether it is preferable to work for someone else and get a stable paycheck but rely on your employer for work, or to work for yourself, rely only on yourself and your customers for work but risk earning less.

Some common forms of becoming more self sufficient are gardening, learning basic skills such as woodwork, plumbing or cleaning, installing a renewable energy source and walking or cycling rather than driving.

4.- Self Care.

The other side to reducing dependence is to reduce the need for less essential things. Other people provide company, affection, validation, stimulation. And it’s only natural to need and want these things. But we don’t want to rely on their continual supply. Needing someone else to validate you daily is as much a form of dependence as needing them to feed you is.

Instead, cultivate a form of self love through self care. This should be easier when you are self aware, self actualizing and largely self sufficient. You know who you are, where you are headed, what you want and you don’t desperately need anyone to get you there. This means you already have important, internal sources of validation: your skills, your identity, your goals.

But you need to also spend some time caring for yourself to cultivate this self love. Spending time alone if good for you. Even if it takes some effort at first, try and enjoy your own company. Make your own entertainment. Find books, films, games or hobbies that intellectually and emotionally stimulate you. Consider important questions and matters and reflect on them on your own. Play Devil’s Advocate against yourself.

Show yourself some tenderness. Afford yourself treats, relaxation time, idle hobbies and guilty pleasures.

Basically, learn to live on your own, to live with yourself. You don’t have to do it all the time. But it needs to be an option. You need to be able to be left on your own without pining.

5.- Self Integration.

Finally, I have been continually mentioning that you actually do need others for a lot of these things. You rely on either an employer or clients if not both for your income. You rely on gun manufacturers, law enforcement or other measures for your safety. If you plan on reading to liven your mind, you are relying on the writer, the publisher, the source of the book. You can never cut yourself off from humanity.

So the last crucial step to independence is to integrate yourself well into society. You will always need people. So try and only rely on people worth relying on. Rely on select people minimally and let them rely on you minimally. Establish clear boundaries in your relationships as to how far dependence can go. You want to be an active member of society. But you want to be a self aware, self actualized, self sufficient, self caring one too.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Do you view yourself as independent? What do you find yourself relying on too much? Do you find you’re at the other end of the spectrum and too detached from people? What parts of the self awareness questions did you find hardest? What parts of yourself are you fighting to reconcile with? If you feel comfortable doing so, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.